A divorce law has yet to be enacted in the Philippines, making it the only state in the world (other than Vatican City) where divorce is illegal.
This does not mean, however, that couples in the country have no means of escaping an unhappy marriage. The Philippine equivalent of divorce is an annulment, which is similar to divorce in many ways but takes longer and is more difficult to obtain.
Difference between annulment and nullity of marriage
Both annulment of void marriages and nullity of a void marriages, may grant both parties the freedom to re-marry other persons. The difference is that in an annulment, it dissolves a marriage that was legally binding while nullity voids a union that was invalid from the start. Examples of null marriages are those entered into by minors (persons below 18) even with parental consent, bigamous or polygamous marriages, or marriages officiated by unauthorized persons or entities.
Grounds for annulment in the Philippines
Article 45 of the Family Code lists six grounds for annulment:
- No parental consent if either party was between 18 and 21 years at the time of marriage
- Psychological incapacity
- Fraudulent consent, which includes non-disclosure of either party of a material fact before marriage, such as pregnancy by another man or a sexually transmitted disease
- Consent obtained by force, intimidation, or undue influence
- Physical inability to consummate the marriage
- Serious or incurable sexually transmitted disease
Another ground which is the most common reason cited in an annulment is the Psychological incapacity based on Article 26 of the Family Code, which is broadly defined as the inability of one or both spouses to comply with basic marital obligations. Accepted manifestations of psychological incapacity include the refusal of one spouse to live with the other, an antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder, drug addiction, unabated alcohol consumption, and others.
The annulment processtrong
The following are the steps you need take in an annulment proceeding:
- Hire a lawyer
The annulment process involves filing the necessary papers with the proper courts, as well as several hearings. You will need a lawyer to accurately draft the legal forms and prepare the supporting documents, file them with the right body, and represent you in court hearing.
- Get a psychological evaluation
If the grounds for annulment is psychological incapacity, the petitioner must show proof or evidence that the spouse’s psychological incapacity is severe, incurable, and existed prior to the marriage. While not a requirement, a professional assessment by a psychologist or similar practitioner will definitely give credence to the charge.
- File the petition for annulment with the proper court
This is typically the Family Court where either the petitioner or respondent resides six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition.
- Attend the pre-trial conference
This is a mandatory procedure aimed at dealing with certain issues to speed up the process. Failure of the petitioner to appear can lead to the dismissal of the petition.
- Go through the trial
This is when arguments for and against the annulment are heard. Several hearings may be needed.
- Receive the judge’s decision
The decision is considered final after the lapse of fifteen (15) days from receipt of the Decision if no reconsideration or appeal is sought by either party.
- Settle asset distribution
Liquidation and separation of assets, child custody, support, and presumptive legitimises (i.e., the assets the children are entitled to inherit) and other issues related to the annulment of marriage may be agreed upon by both parties.
The entire annulment process can take as long as one to two years, or more. The length of time and the high costs involved in annulment are two factors that divorce advocates cite in calling for a divorce law in the Philippines.